With a daunting cascade of releases spewing from the likes of DatPiff, LiveMixtapes, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud, it can be difficult to keep up with the overbearing yet increasingly vital mixtape game. In this column, we aim to immerse ourselves in this hyper-prolific world and share our favorite releases each month. The focus will primarily be on rap mixtapes — loosely defined here as free (or sometimes free-to-stream) digital releases — but we’ll keep things loose enough to branch out if/when we feel it necessary. (Check out last month’s installment here.)
Kodak Black - Lil B.I.G. Pac
In April, Kodak Black claimed superiority over Biggie and Tupac, sending Old Head Twitter into a frenzy of trash talking and eye rolling, but both Biggie and Pac were murdered before the 19-year-old from Hollywood, Florida was even born. His response on “Big Bank,” “You ain’t gotta like my music but you gon’ respect me.” It’s fitting that Kodak’s Lil B.I.G. Pac features two of the South’s greatest, Gucci and Boosie – between Kodak’s Gucci drawl and Boosie higher-pitched rasp, it could be claimed Gucci and Boosie butted out Biggie and Pac on his own Rap Mount Rushmore. Institution still holds as Kodak’s best, but between Lil B.I.G. Pac, his underground fame trickling into radio, and the correlating XXL Freshman 2016 induction, this is shaping up to be his best yet.
OG Maco - OG Maco 2
OG Maco 2, the second in Maco’s EP-length mixtape series, finds the fiery Atlantan in a full-on shit-talking, hook-hawking mode that blends the wild dynamics and subtle trolling vibe of “U Guessed It” with the neofuturist production style and social comment debuted on The Lord Of Rage earlier this year. Coming in a few tracks shorter than its 2014 predecessor OG Maco, this drop sees Maco honing his grimey artistic vision while remaining crossover-ready as ever on tracks like “Don’t Know” and the fittingly titled “Young Thug.” OG Maco is yet another vitalizing set from an artist whose energy only continues to grow as we head deep into summer 16.
Night Lovell - Red Teenage Melody
Night Lovell has emerged from the despondent gloom of Concept Vague in favor of a newfound pointedness on Red Teenage Melody. Driven by an 808 kick straight from hell, album opener “Boy Red” makes this notion crystal-clear, as the Ottawa-based artist declares, “I don’t wanna be yo enemy/ But these niggas wanna start shit.” Swelling anger is far from the only emotion he bares throughout, though; there’s nothing obscured about the upbeat “Barbie Doll” or bonafide anthem “Louis V,” as the former bends and snaps with clubs in mind while the latter will have listeners rocking fake Louis V with the quickness. Features from longtime collaborator Dylan Brady and rising Atlanta rapper Nessly are welcomed additions to the fray, but Red Teenage Melody is undoubtedly at its finest when Lovell remains front and center, guns blazing.
Lessondary + DJ Low Key - Never 2ndary
Imagine Wu-Tang Clan never put out a group album, just a ferry-load of solo albums and mixtapes, but then after 10 years of on-again/off-again collaboration, the collective finally came together on some, “Guys, we’ve waited long enough. Let’s do this already.” OK, so Lessondary doesn’t have a lineup as stacked as Wu-Tang’s or a combined catalog as deep, but listening to this mixtape and the long-awaited album it preceded (the ironically titled Ahead of Schedule), one can’t help but think about what could have been. Never mind that though. Lessondary consists of Von Pea and Donwill (a.k.a. Tanya Morgan), Ilyas Nashid, Rob Cave (f.k.a. Spec Boogie), Che Grand, Jermiside, Elucid, Aeon and Brickbeats. Together at last, their story is one of fulfillment, not regret.
Bodega BAMZ - All Eyez Off Me
Never mind the Tupac reference. Bodega BAMZ, an emerging rapper from Spanish Harlem, pummels forward on this mixtape quickie, corralling 10 different producers for 10 different tracks. The result is welcomingly all over the place, wielding a stuttering, mutant aesthetic that surprises with each cut. Like, what’s the bizarre R&B jam “Mind Yo Bizness” doing on a tape that leads with throat-slicer “Hell Iz Real”? And what’s with the the lyrics on “Kill Yo Self”? Surprisingly, for a mixtape that sees Bodega mostly showcasing his quick-minded, dexterous MC skills, his best verse is on the watery slow-mo jam “Actual Love.” Given its ambient, 18+-esque lethargy, it should sound cheesy as fuck, but it’s here where Bodgea drops his baddest bars.
AD & Sorry Jaynari - By The Way
There are a whole lot of directions I could take this, but thankfully, AD & Sorry Jaynari have got it all figured out. I mean, they haven’t shown me a definitive itinerary, and AD texted me like an hour ago that he was on his way, but he hasn’t failed me yet and I don’t have any doubts that, come morning, we’ll have seen some serious shit. And this time, I hear he’s bringing YG, E-40, Freddie Gibbs, Ty$, O.T. Genasis, K Camp, all them boys. Shit’s going WAY UP. Just as soon as they all get their asses down here. Until then, though, I think I’ll just chill here and preview some of these new tracks. I’ve heard they’re all FIRE. Plus, there’s a REMIX. And on top of that, I heard that TMT’s bumping all of their shit, so you know they’re about to blow up soon.
DJ Esco & Future - Project E.T.
Purple Reign and EVOL were bleak and isolate winter content, and even their bangers couldn’t put a smile on you. But now it’s summertime in the city, Gucci is home, and there’s music playing out the car windows. So you’re calling in sick to work and throwing on the new Future tape and jumping around. It’s felt like a (long) year since Future’s last release, and even though he should be back in Astronaut Kid spirit for Project E.T., it’s the guests and producers who are the most far out on this tape. It’s a summer-night block party pack, an hourlong expo: Casey Veggies and Nef The Pharaoh bounce on the sped-soul of Esco and Mustard’s “Stupidly Crazy”; Rambo So Weird just makes you wanna scream on “Super Dumb”; “Who” is a Slime Season crossover movie, that rare gem of a Future & Thug track (it’s so good); Lil Uzi Vert gets into Beast Mode on “Too Much Sauce”; and Drake is on here somewhere. When Future sounds best, he’s doing a slimey hook on “Champagne Showers” or slinking along Southside’s cool guitar track on “Married To The Game.” You were ready for another 56 Nights, but Future and Esco brought something for everybody this time.